October 23, 1983. The day that a truck bomb killed 241 of our Marines in a barracks in Beirut. I can't believe that 24 years have passed already... I can remember the day like it was yesterday. However, my timeline of finding out what happened is probably way different from most people's.
There was a local conference that weekend of various prayer groups. It took place in two all-day events on Saturday and Sunday; I was one of the musicians that weekend. There was also a bass player named Lou, who was somewhat older than the rest of the music ministry (and, as I later learned, had a son a few years younger than I was).
Our Sunday event started bright and early, so I was out of the house and away from radio and TV long before the news of the bombing broke. We all were. None of us at the conference had the slightest idea that anything had happened.
After the conference, in the evening, the music ministry went back to the home of one of our guitarists. Again, as we turned on neither radio nor TV, we were still unaware of the day's tragic news story.
I finally got home at about 10 PM. My mom and my grandfather were in the living room, talking about how terrible "it" was and how horrified and shocked they were by "it" all. I didn't know what they were referring to, but it sounded ominous. "From the sound of it, I suspect that I'm not going to like the answer, but I haven't heard any news reports today. What is the 'it' that you're talking about?"
My mom looked at me like I had two heads. "You don't KNOW?" At which point, I figured I was going to like "it" even less when I found out just how bad it was.
"Unfortunately, no. We had no access to the news during the conference, and at [the guitarist]'s house, we didn't turn on the TV or the radio. So I haven't heard a news report since early this morning."
So they told me about the bombing, and of course I was horrified and appalled by the news.
But not nearly as horrified and appalled as I was a few days later, when I realized that our bass player's son was one of the Marines that died. "My God, I spent that entire day with him, and none of us had any idea that he'd just lost his son!"
RIP, LCpl Louis Rotondo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I never met you, but if you were anything like your dad, you must have been a great guy.